Seconds Before Awakening, Thirteen

sba_13Offering up three and a half hours of drones, Seconds Before Awakening’s Thirteen is clearly meant for quiet, long-term listening. (On the album’s page, it clearly says, “Play, listen, fall asleep & dream.”) Artist Mike Waller pulls his sounds out to great lengths in these six tracks, letting many of them go on in their light layers, but also knows when to make them rear up a bit to get your attention. Thirteen does what Waller wants it to, and it does so in waves of warm drones. There’s no real deviation from course for this long piece, just subtle shifts of dynamic. Toward the end of Part Three and into the beginning of Part Four, there’s a gentle rise in intensity and a stronger spacemusic overtone to the flow. (You can check my timing: I’m somewhere between an hour-forty and two hours in at this stage, and I may have stepped out of the body for a moment or two.) Unlike the pieces before and after it, Part Four goes on to lift a bit out of the hush to show a melodic side. It plays out without disturbing the overall feel, just single notes looping and peaking in the flow and adding a new texture. Parts Five and Six retain a level of intensity, conveyed through strong, low tones in lightly swelling waveforms and somewhat more roughened edges in spots. (I’m not sure these passages work as a sleep aid, but give it a shot.)

Thirteen turned out to offer far more than I expected when I started out on its marathon. The lulling spaces of the early tracks unfold into richer, more varied elements as time (slowly) passes, and I like that Waller does not succumb to the sometimes perceived need to break up long stretches like these with attention-getting bursts that only serve to pull a listener out of the experience. As Thirteen moves along, its changes of tone arrive as welcome surprises that we simply accept as the next part of the journey. This is not the album you’re going to sit down and listen to; it’s the album you’ll start and then go about your business, conscious or not. However you choose to experience Thirteen, you will be affected by it—but quietly so.

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